He was loved world over but actor and comedian Robin Williams took his own life in August 2014. A new documentary on Williams tells the late comedian's story mostly using his voice. The documentary, premiered on HBO Now this week. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
He was loved world over but actor and comedian Robin Williams took his own life in August 2014. A new documentary on Williams tells the late comedian's story mostly using his voice. The documentary, premiered on HBO Now this week. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File) Charles Sykes

#YouCanTalk is a new direction in a very difficult topic

IN 2016 In 2016, 2866 people died by suicide in Australia.

Today a new direction in suicide prevention was launched to encourage people to talk openly about one of contemporary society's most difficult topics.

#YouCanTalk is an Australian-first collaboration between leading mental health and suicide prevention organisations.

The unprecedented national campaign is designed to give people confidence and the tools to ask direct questions about suicide if they see signs that someone they care about are not themselves or appear deeply troubled.

#YouCanTalk is a direct response to a landmark survey of 3000 people across Australia.

The survey found many people wanted to do more about suicide in their communities, but didn't know how.

Half of all respondents believed only mental health professionals could help prevent suicide and 40 per cent were worried that talking about it would only make things worse.

Professor Helen Christensen, director of the Black Dog Institute said the evidence was clear.

"It is not harmful to ask someone if they are thinking about taking their own life or find out if they have made a plan," she said.

"In fact, it could help. It's important that we all know the facts about suicide and our prevention efforts are informed by what the research tells us."

#YouCanTalk aims to mobilise the community and empower family and friends to act as 'eyes and ears' for their loved ones to make sure they can get support before reaching crisis point.

This includes recognising the signs that someone may be thinking of suicide, how to talk about it openly and honestly and what to do if someone says they are not coping.

Headspace CEO, Jason Trethowan said suicide was not a silent killer.

"There are signs that we can all look out for," he said.

"Particularly when it comes to young people, who have a range of life stresses that may be masking something deeper."

Australia has world-leading suicide prevention services but according to Lifeline CEO Bob Gilkes, not everyone will seek help themselves.

"They may first disclose something to family or friends."

And the more #YouCanTalk about suicide in an open, honest and empathetic way, the more lives can be saved.

To find out how to safely talk about suicide, support the campaign or access support services follow #YouCanTalk on social media or go to www.lifeinmindaustralia.com.au/youcantalk.

INDICATORS SOMEONE MIGHT BE AT RISK OF SUICIDE

1. Withdrawing from friends, family and social activities.

2. Change in their mood or extreme mood swings - sadness, agitation.

3. Disinterest in maintaining personal hygiene or appearance.

4. Uncharacteristically reckless behaviour, including increasing alcohol or drug use.

5. Talking about death, suicide and wanting to die.

*This is not an exhaustive list. Be guided by your instincts.

THE DOs & DON'Ts

DO

. Let your friend or loved one know you have noticed they're behaving differently.

. If you feel uncertain and that your friend or loved one may be at risk, do ask the question. Are you having thoughts about suicide? Be prepared for the answer to be yes. Then listen with empathy and without judgement.

. Make sure they're safe for now and support them to seek help.

DON'T

. Don't try to talk them out of suicide by reminding them 'what they've got going for them' or how much it would hurt their friends and family.

. Don't try to fix their problems.

. Don't dismiss it as 'attention seeking'. Take them seriously and acknowledge the reasons they want to die.

THE EVIDENCE

Recent national research conducted by University of Melbourne found, via a representative survey of 3002 Australians:

. Almost 50% of participants believed that helping a person at risk of suicide requires the skill of a professional.

. About 40% of respondents believed that suicide happens without warning.

. About 40% believed that asking someone about suicide could make them start thinking about it.

. About 40% believed trying to help someone at risk could make the situation worse.

If you or someone you know needs urgent support talk to someone you trust or contact a crisis support service listed below:

Adults:

. Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au

. beyondblue 1300 224 636 www.beyondblue.org.au

. Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au

. MensLine Australia 1300 789 978 www.mensline.org.au

. QLife 1800 184 527 (3pm - 12am) www.qlife.org.au

. Emergency services: 000

Young people:

. Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelpline.com.au

. headspace 1800 650 890 www.headspace.org.au

. ReachOut.com www.au.reachout.com

. Emergency services: 000



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